Greens aim for Westminster as first party leader elected

A protester holds a rainbow flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 3, 2013, as protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage

The Green party in England and Wales has elected Caroline Lucas as their first leader with more than 90% of the vote.

An MEP for South East England defeated her rival for the leadership, Ashley Gunstock, by 2559 votes to 210.

First elected to the European Parliament in 1999, she has been active on LGBT issues.

However, there was no mention of them in her keynote speech to the party’s conference in London, when she said they must “break the cosy cartel of the Westminster parties.”

Ms Lucas, 47, is married with two children. She was one of the party’s first councillors, winning a seat in Oxfordshire in 1993.

The Greens had previously had two “principal speakers,” one of each gender, but decided that it had little impact on the voters who are more used to one party leader.

“Britain needs Green leadership now,” said Ms Lucas after her victory was announced.

“None of the other parties has the vision or the courage to tackle the real challenges we face today -the accelerating climate crisis, and Victorian levels of inequality.

“We need a Green New Deal to tackle the impact of rising prices and increased unemployment.

“We need to invest the proceeds of a Windfalltax on massive energy company profits into making the homes of ordinary people warmer and fuel bills more affordable.

“As leader I will work tirelessly to get our positive Green message across to the public, and to see more Greens elected to deliver social and environmental justice in towns and cities across the country.”

In her leader’s speech yesterday Ms Lucas said the Greens’ priority for the year ahead would be to get MPs in Westminster.

At present there are two Greens on the London Assembly. They have 125 councillors and two MEPs.

“We have to help people to believe again, to put aside mistrust and cynicism,” she said.

“And we need to convince them that another world really is possible. Not easy. But it has to be done. And there’s no-one else to do it.

“Greens in Westminster. So in the year ahead, we must work to get Green MPs elected to Westminster.”

In a speech that ranged far beyond traditionally Green themes, Ms Lucas criticised Labour for the “Victorian” levels of poverty in Britain and attacked the BNP.

“At a time when people feel so betrayed by the cosy Westminster village … the BNP can present themselves as an alternative,” she said.

“And so we’re not done with them yet.

“Everywhere they stand, we’ll stand. Every street they canvas, we’ll canvass too.

“And every time they wrap themselves in the Union Jack, we should be there to remind people that, bigotry, violence and racism have no place in this country.”

Ms Lucas told the BBC that Lewisham and Norwich South are target seats, along with the constituency she is standing in at the next election, Brighton Pavilion.

The seat is currently held by Labour, but it is seen as the best chance of a Green win at the next general election.

In 2005 the Greens took 22% of the vote, with the Tories on 23.9% and Labour on 35.4%.

The constituency has one of the highest populations of LGBT people in the UK, and the Greens have consistently courted the gay vote.

At the next general election the party would need a swing of 7% to take the seat.

David Lepper became the first Labour candidate to ever take Brighton Pavilion in 1997, but he has announced that he will stand down at the next election.

Meanwhile, the Tories have selected Dr David Bull as their candidate for the seat. A television presenter, he is openly gay.